Barca, Madrid gear up for Clasico

Madrid, March 22: Sunday sees perhaps the most important game of the season in the Spanish BBVA Primera Liga when Real Madrid entertain FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The ‘Clasico’ as the game has come to be known, is one of the most watched games of the season not only in Spain but all over the world as the two historic rivals go head to head, reports Xinhua.

Given that Barca and Madrid are the two biggest sides in Spain it is no surprise that Clasicos are so often title deciders and this season’s match is no different.

Real Madrid will go into the match with a four point lead over Barca knowing a win would put them seven clear, a virtually unbridgeable gap given how often the ‘big two’ drop points.

This season’s Clasico is slightly different given that Barca and Real Madrid are not the only two sides in the title race and Atletico Madrid who are away to Betis earlier in the day, will be watching events closely all too aware that a win for Barca coupled with a victory in the Benito Villamarin would lift them to the top of the table given their superior head-to-head goal difference with their neighbours.

Real Madrid coach, Carlo Ancelotti has few doubts with his starting 11 and will field his strongest available side, with the only doubt over whether Marcelo or Fabio Coentrao plays at left back.

Real Madrid will be hoping their decisive strike trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will be able to sweep past what at times has looked to be a fragile Barcelona defence.

Real Madrid will also hope to make Barca’s weakness in defending set-pieces count. With relatively smaller players Barca have long struggled to effectively defend corners and players such as Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos will look to exploit that weakness.

Barcelona have lost their last two away games in the BBVA Primera Liga, although they recovered with a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna last weekend. That win was significant because coach ‘Tata’ Martino left striker Neymar on the bench and played an attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez.

IANS